Park N Shop plan moves forward
A developer’s proposal to build 12 apartments in the Park N Shop plaza moved forward Tuesday, when the planning commission gave the plan its blessing.
The project will now move on to city council for final approval.
DSM Commercial is seeking to demolish the shuttered M&T Bank building at the corner of South Main Street and Apple Road and replace it with a threestory building containing 10,600 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 12 apartments on the second and third
floors. There would be 10 four-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments for a total of 44 bedrooms.
Most of the existing, recently renovated retail space at the shopping center would remain, though plans call for demolishing 6,400 square feet of the western-most portion of the building – which Park N Shop Liquors occupied before it moved elsewhere in the shopping center – to provide more parking and create an end-cap unit.
Mike Hoffman, a lawyer for DSM, said the company aims to create a walkable, community-oriented feel to the shopping center.
He conceded the apartments would most likely be rented by university students but noted that there are already a number of mixed-use buildings featuring student apartments along South Main Street.
“At 12 units, that’s a drop in the bucket in comparison, so it’s hardly inserting that character into the corridor or changing or altering that character,” he said.
DSM officials have said previously that they want to attract “community-type amenities” to the proposed retail space as well as the three existing vacancies. Such businesses could include a coffee shop, an icecream shop or a restaurant, they said.
Last summer, the center welcomed two new studentcentric businesses: D.P. Dough, a late-night calzone spot, and Good Uncle, a delivery-only food service that operates out of a building behind the main retail strip.
DSM would not disclose any other possible tenants.
“We’re approached very often by potential tenants, but we’ve been extremely selective,” Managing Partner Tripp Way said last fall. “We don’t want to just fill it with any tenant.”
DSM purchased the 5-acre shopping center in 2014 – after the previous owner abandoned a highly controversial proposal to replace the bank building with a Wawa gas station – and held two community meetings to gain feedback from neighbors before coming to the planning commission.
The plan originally called for a drive-thru coffee shop, but DSM eliminated that after many residents voiced concerns about increased traffic and noise from the speaker.
However, some residents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting still had concerns.
Gene Lara, who lives across from the shopping center at the corner of Winslow and Apple roads, said he is worried about the additional traffic the project could bring.
“I’m really concerned about the impact it will have on the neighborhood,” Lara said.
He also argued that the new building should be turned around so that most of its frontage is on South Main Street, rather than Apple Road.
Hoffman responded that is not possible because some existing tenants in the shopping center have leases that dictate DSM cannot build a structure that blocks the view of their store from South Main Street.
Lara’s partner, Bill Wersinger, said he feels there has been too much development along South Main Street.
“What’s next, the BP station is going to be developed?” he said. “They’re going to keep moving into Old Newark. Basically, we’re losing our neighborhood.”
Jean White, who lives in Nottingham Green, said she would rather the new building be office space instead of apartments.
Hoffman replied that having residential space creates more of a community feel.
“The residential aspect, having people on site, creates that energy and creates that excitement and provides us benefits that would not have the same impact on traffic as a pure office,” he said.
Rosie Zappo, whose house backs up to the Park N Shop, praised DSM for improving the shopping center.
“I’ve lived here since I was 12 years old, on and off, and the place was a nightmare,” Zappo said. “We had rats, we had prostitutes, we had drug dealers, and I’m not Mrs. Kravitz saying, ‘Abner,’. This was the reality of living in this house.”
She added that DSM has installed sur veillance cameras, improved the parking lot and has been responsive to concerns from neighbors.
“They do what they say they do, they’re open to suggestions and they’re great neighbors,” Zappo said.
The planning commission unanimously approved DSM’s request to divide the property into two parcels and rezone the 1.13-acre parcel containing the new mixed-use building from general business to central business district. It also approved a comprehensive plan amendment, major subdivision, a special-use permit and a 27-space parking waiver, for which DSM will pay the city $100,000.
If approved by council, the $5 million project is slated to be completed by spring 2019.
A bird’s-eye view shows the layout of the proposed project at the Park N Shop. The new building would be built at the corner of South Main Street and Apple Road, while most of the existing retail space would remain.
An artist’s rendering shows how the proposed mixed-use project at the Park N Shop would look from Apple Road.
An artist’s rendering shows how the proposed mixed-use project at the Park N Shop would look from South Main Street